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Another computer game encourages innovation

We’ve already discussed how multimodal computer games promote interaction and participatory culture for the expanding minds of children. Henry Jenkins, Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton, and Alice J. Robison thoroughly discuss the coupling of pedagogical uses of new media technology, such as computer games, with the development of literary skills in their research text, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Teachers and researchers recognize hands-on learning as often being a preferred and faster method of learning for school-age children. “Metagaming” and simulated programs, such as The Sims, help broaden experiences and skills that cannot be taught effectively through verbal lectures (Jenkins 40). Countless other simulation games are valued by teachers for their help in building problem-solving skills, such the early 1991 game, Myst.

Perhaps the most impressive game that I’ve seen, however, is Crayon Physics. Michael Thompson’s review of Crayon Physics offers a great description of the game and what skills it builds in its players:

“The basic idea behind Crayon Physics is that gamers have to get a ball to a point that is marked by a star. This is accomplished by drawing a number of different items that can act in a variety of ways to help get the ball from Point A to Point B. On a basic level, the drawings act as ramps or barriers, while more advanced implementation accomplishes a number of feats like creating weights and levers, as well as malleable platforms that can be affected by other creations.”

Thompson calls the object a “puzzle,” identifying the game’s real pedagogical value – players can solve these puzzles by “drawing” innovative solutions, instead of relying on items already provided by the game. There will obviously be more than one way to solve each “puzzle.” Thompson says players can be “creative and solve each puzzle through whatever means they can conceive, as opposed to only having one convoluted method as the only solution.”

crayon physics

Jenkins may have valued knowledge of Crayon Physics in arguing for Ian Bogost’s theory of “procedural literacy, a capacity to restructure and reconfigure knowledge to look at problems from multiple vantage points, and through this process to develop a greater systemic understanding of the rules and procedures that shape our everyday experiences” (Jenkins 45).

Jenkins stresses the value of simulation in games, arguing that schools need to build on skills afforded in each to help students become both literate and  critical readers. His idea of “distributed cognition” explains how students learn the affordances of different tools and information technologies (Jenkins 65). Crayon Physics perfectly argues his case for the use of computer games, as players must choose apply different solutions to different problems based on context.

  1. November 11th, 2009 at 10:21 | #1

    Very cool game, Aileen. It seems to use the same properties at work in the totally addicting iPhone app, Ragdoll Blaster: http://www.backflipstudios.com/ragdollblaster

    With Crayon Physics, however, the fact that you have to draw the structures adds an entirely new level of critical thinking. Can’t wait for it to come out on a Mac and/or iPhone.

  2. AileenBachant
    November 11th, 2009 at 13:36 | #2

    The link takes me to a page that says the URL is not found, but don’t worry – I Googled it. And, yes! Very similar!

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